A team of NASA scientists have been working hard on a project many have called utterly impossible. Yet there are new signs, that in typical NASA fashion, what some say is possible is actually well within reach of our genius space engineers.
The team has been working on a potentially revolutionary space engine that doesn't require rocket fuel and could cut down the time to reach Mars to only 10 weeks.
Blocking their progress has been the prospect that they could be looking at a scientific error in violation of one of classic physics' core rules.
They've been trying to work out which it is for months. Newly released test results are now showing that they're calculations are no error, according to NASA. In a thorough breakdown of the new engine, called an EM Drive, NASA says the recent tests are a major breakthrough in space flight research.
The new round of tests were conducted in a vacuum, unlike all the prior tests, and the EM Drive was still found to function correctly.
This allows NASA to rule out the possibility that the drive's thrust is being created by heat transfer outside of the engine, rather than inside of it. The theory at work is that this drive can create force by bouncing electromagnetic waves around inside of a chamber, with some of their energy being transferred to a reflector to produce thrust.
At face value, this sounds a lot like something that violates the conservation of momentum, though the inventor of the idea believes that this is not actually the case.
Naturally there's still quite a bit of work to be done here. NASA says that the focus should remain on how this thrust is being created — meaning it's still a matter of verifying that a working EM Drive is possible.
NASA, through its Eagleworks lab, intends to do further tests on EM Drives in a vacuum after seeing these latest encouraging results. Should the drive pan out, the belief is that it would dramatically reduce the weight of what NASA has to launch into space.
It could also prevent a body like the International Space Station from having to continually rely on boosts from docking vehicles. Such an engine would also be useful for space travel, be it to the moon or something much farther out.
While production wouldn't be possible until well into the future, such an engine would mark the first new space propulsion system in almost 50 years. It would truly revolutionize space travel, in a way similar to man first visiting the moon.